six flags: shouka

We went to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom at the weekend. It is a large theme park in Vallejo, formerly known as Marine world, and alongside the enormous scary rollercoasters and thrill rides there are plenty of zoo animals, such as tigers and elephants and alligators. However, their main attractions are of course the marine life. I have never seen a walrus in my life, but wow those things are huge! They moved about too fast in their pretty small tank for me to sketch, but I did take the opportunity to sketch some of the shows we saw. Above, in a packed amphitheatre, Shouka to Killer Whale danced about for the audience. I’ve never seen a killer whale show to my memory either, and it is quite amazing how high those massive beasts can jump. It reminded me of that stupid Shark v Octopus film, which we caught on TV the other week (and watched for its utter ridiculousness). Shouka was a far better entertainer, though she didn’t take bites out of any jumbo jets. I was amazed to learn that killer whales are found everywhere in the world, equalling human beings in their dispersal. Funny how you never hear see them at the supermarket or on the subway though.

We also saw the dolphin show, acrobatic and charismatic, they even sang songs (probably “goodbye, and thanks for all the fish”). My son in particular loved the dolphins. I sketched while he watched, trying to capture them as they dove in and out, and I managed not to get my sketchbook splashed on. I started a new small cahier moleskine, I’m calling it the ‘red moley’, for small quick in-your-pocket sketches. I am about to start my next watercolour moley (number 8) but these ones are fun to have too.

six flags: dolphinsanimals at six flags

We saw sharks, and sea-lions, and I got to sketch a very sleepy lioness (opposite the enclosure of a sleepy and very cuddly looking tiger), while we sat for a rest, feeling very sleepy ourselves. I enjoyed the butterfly habitat, with all its colourful butterflies flying around us, and sketched one beautiful (and patient) one. We got milkshakes – by the way, if you go here and buy milkshakes, they won’t give you a straw to drink it with, ‘for animal safety’. The plastic forks and spoons and other junk food paraphernalia is allowed for some reason but straws are all out. I didn’t go on any rollercoasters, though I did start to queue up for one (until I got to a sign saying it was 60 minutes until the ride – no thanks). Eventually I did go on one ‘thrill’ ride, called Voodoo, which just straps you in and spins you around and around before letting you feel gravity and fear for a second or two, before it’s over. I had my eyes closed for most of the time. It was a tiring but fun family day.

shades of earth

arboretum visitor center

Had about fifteen minutes or so yesterday lunchtime to to a quick sketch, so popped by the Arboretum to use my wonderful new pen. I scribbled some paint on the paper first, the typical Davis colours, and it was a fun exercise. This is a quiet time on campus, when the students are all gone and the sun is out and strong.

all around the clocktower

crouch end, london

A bigger, more complicated drawing for the previously mentioned amazing pen. This is Crouch End, an area of London we lived in for three years. This is the clocktower at the junction of Crouch End Broadway. This took a while. The Old Crown pub one I drew before took just under an hour, while this took several hours, spread over a couple of evenings and a lunchtime, but it’s bigger and more ridiculously detailed. I haven’t drawn a mega-tiny-detailed street scene in a while, and of course I’m playing with (and draining all the ink from) this incredible pen. It’s like the elder wand of pens, it just feels so nice to draw with that i want to keep drawing.

Drawn with uniball signo UM-151 on Canson classic cream drawing paper (first time i’ve used it since getting it at last year’s portland symposium), size is a bit shy of  8″x8″. I think I’ll do some more of these.

easy sits the crown

old crown highgate

I found an AMAZING pen. The Uni-ball Signo UM-151, seemed harmelss enough, but when I picked it up for the first time and wrote my name it was like that scene in the wandshop in Harry Potter, “the pen chooses the artist”. I have to try this out in a drawing, I said to myself. It flowed amazingly, it stayed wonderfully black, and it was just so easy to use. Sure, it could not take a wash – that’s ok. I have a lot of pens that can. But would it work on that waxy smooth regular Moleskine paper found in their non-watercolour sketchbooks? That yellowy paper upon which I have tried and failed to find a pen I enjoyed using on it? (For my Davis Moleskine I settled on the Pitt pens, as the micron just wouldn’t work with it. The one I sketched this in is one I began back in 2006…) Oh yes, it worked alright. I spent a lunchtime drawing the Old Crown pub on Highgate Hill (above) from a photo, and just fell in love with the pen. I’ve already started planning out whole drawing projects around it, like a surprise midfield playmaker. I may even take it to London with me, to meet the family. I only hope the ink doesn’t run out before Lisbon, as these pens aren’t easy to find (I see stocking up online somewhere in my future).

Incidentally, I only ever went to that pub once, but I lived a short walk from here on Hornsey Lane for three years. I used to catch the 143 bus from just across the road every day (that mad dash in the morning, oh London commuting I miss you…), and one day I did sketch it in my old long-ago ‘blue’ sketchbook, but never drew it again. I took a photo on a trip a few years ago and am only now drawing it. It’s a cool building, in an area of cool buildings.

Drawing with uniball signo

The pens have a new king.

sir fergie

sir alex ferguson

Sir Fergie. He’s happy because he looks a bit like John Craven in this drawing. The football season is over, and it has been a long long time since I drew anything in the football book started last year, despite having an amazing football season to report on (namely, Spurs in the Champions League). I thought I’d make up for it with a few drawings of the faces of the season. Well, one drawing. Sir Alex Ferguson won yet another Premier League title this year, Manchester United’s 19th (a new record), and though they ultimately lost the Champions League final (once again to Barcelona), he’s without a doubt cemented his place as the best and most consistent of all managers in English (maybe even British) football history. Fair play to him. Refs hate him, Arsene Wenger doesn’t send him Christmas cards, and the FA seem to have an automatic ‘fine Fergie for something’ reminder on their Outlook calendars. I tell you what, football will be very different when he’s gone. He is the embodiment of the manager truly being the Boss, and for those who argue with him, he has a hell of a lot of silverware, and he’s not afraid to throw it at you.

return of the dragons

backflow preventer, uc davis

Haven’t done much drawing in my large Urban Sketchers Canson sketchbook since getting it at the Portland Symposium last year, but while I am ‘between watercolour moleskines’ I’ve been sketching in all sorts of places. A colleague at work asked if his daughter who likes to draw could sketch with me one lunchtime, and since she likes to draw dragons I suggested we draw these things, which have always reminded me somewhat of metal robotic dragons. Backflow Preventers, that is their Latin name, but I give them more fun industrial dragon names like Zmorg and Xfafnir-31 and Metal-Pipe-Thing. These ones are on the UC Davis campus, sketched as the weather was getting warmer. The Davis summer has finally arrived, we had 99 degrees yesterday, though thousands more degrees than that were given out last weekend. Do I say that joke every year? I think I probably do. Anyway, after a hiatus I am back drawing the big metal pipes that come out of the ground.    

the dragon's head

“i’m leavin’, on a jet ski…”

toy robber

This is the Robber, which came with the jet-ski as part of my son’t Playmobil Police Helicopter set. It’s great fun in the bath; that little metal thing at the bottom helps it stay upright and afloat. It’s funny how we know he’s supposed to be a robber because he is unshaven and wearing sunglasses (footballers and movie stars beware); I’m surprised Playmobil don’t make a little Hoodie, with a little toy Staff. Maybe for their ‘run-down estate street corner’ set. Maybe the title for this post should be ‘Thievin’ on a Jet-Ski’. This was drawn in Copic 0.05 multiliner in the small WH Smith sketchbook (one page until that one is finished!).

The  fire-truck below however was sketched in my large ‘Urban Sketchers’ Canson sketchbook, from last year’s Portland Symposium. I realised that I’d not sketched this in a couple of years, since my son first got it at his great-grandma’s up in Oregon, and though it’s pretty beat up it’s his favourite of the fire trucks. I sketched it while watching some ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ cartoons on tv, and wasn’t really paying attention when drawing the wheels – oops – but the rest is all where it should be.

toy fire truck

Finally, I drew this a week ago or so, but another of the toy cars (and amazingly a toy that isn’t red). It’s the ‘muddy’ Techron car. These ones are fun to play with, and were given by his cousins. Plus every time we watch the San Francisco Giants play, they show up on a billboard at the edge of the field.

toy muddy car

To see more toy drawings, go to my Flickr set “Toys“. Drawing toys is a really great way to remember a fun age!